Till March 2019, at 56 and 52 per cent, Dahod and Dang districts, respectively, reported the worst attendance of students at government primary schools.
Rated among one of Gujarat’s 10 ‘poor performing clusters’, Kalibel of Vaghai block of Dang had the worst report card with all 100 per cent of students having attended school for less than 40 per cent of working days, against the state average of 21 per cent students attending school for less than 60 per cent of working days.
Vaghai from Vaghai block reported 89 per cent students, and Khambhla from Subir block 86 per cent students who were absent from school for more than 60 per cent of working days.
A change began to set in when in December last year the online attendance system was launched in all government primary schools. From the dismal rate in March, there has been a visible improvement in July this year — children began attending school regularly and the absence rate at Kalibel came down, with only six per cent of students reporting attendance of less than 40 per cent.
Similarly students’ attendance at Vaghai and Khambhla rose to 95 and 94 per cent, respectively. Which means only 5 and 6 per cent students, respectively are now not regular to school.
The system is a part of an umbrella initiative covered under the education department’s ‘command and control centre’ (CCC) for schools, a pilot of which was launched in November last year.
On June 9, a day before the commencement of the new academic session, the CCC saw the formal launch by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, including the monitoring of even the staff.
Principal secretary, Education, Vinod Rao says that improving the attendance of both students and teachers was one of the main issues that had emerged time and again, during the introspection regarding the poor results produced by students and the low-learning levels among students of government schools.
“No matter how many new programmes we launch for students, unless they are regular to schools, nothing will work. And this was one of the major challenges we were facing. Thus, the first prime focus was attendance,” he said.
In Dahod, another tribal district, more than half of the students at government primary schools in Dahod block were found having less than 60 per cent attendance.
Six out of 10 blocks with the worst student attendance (less than 60 per cent) were from Dahod district.
Within five months, from 56 per cent of students not going to school for more than 60 per cent of working days, the number came down to 11 per cent.
Absence rate in Garbada block of the district dropped from 60 per cent to 15 per cent, from 52 per cent to 17 per cent at Devgadh Baria, from 53 per cent to 18 per cent in Zalod block, 55 per cent to 18 per cent in Limkheda and 60 per cent to 24 per cent in Dhanpur.
Thus, quantitatively, Dahod and Dang are the districts that seem to have benefitted the most from the setting up of the CCC.
Rao was also instrumental in setting up the CCC for schools in Sector 19 of Gandhinagar, which would serve as “eyes and ears” of the education department, through which 33,000 government and 10,000 grant-in-aid schools, the entire education staff, including block resource coordinators (BRC) and cluster resource coordinators (CRC), are being monitored centrally.
With this real-time monitoring, cross-verification of implementation of projects, teacher and student attendance, location of CRC and BRC coordinators (through geo-fencing and cross-monitoring through the CCC) would be now possible.
The CCC is not only being replicated by other departments such as health, Integrated Child Development Services, rural development and agriculture, among a few social sector departments from the state but has had bureaucrats from Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra visit to study it for possible replication.
“With the system in place, teachers’ accountability has increased, which was one of the main concerns when it comes to government schools in the state. But at the same time we have made it clear to the 1.95 lakh teachers workforce that it is not about distrust but an attempt to improve the system’s accountability. And the results are evidence of our intentions,” Rao said.
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